'Maxed out' Warriors kingdom crumbles in predictable fashion originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
In a season during which the crown kept sliding off and the throne kept wobbling, it should surprise no one following these Warriors not only that their kingdom crumbled, but also how and where it fell.
The end came with a volley of missed shots on the road, which tormented them from their first trip nearly seven months ago.
The defending NBA champions relinquished their 11-month hold on the title in inglorious fashion Friday night, falling behind in a blink and spending the rest of the evening in futile pursuit of the Lakers before taking a 122-101 loss in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles.
“Our guys hung in there, we had a shot, and we couldn’t quite do it,” coach Steve Kerr told reporters in Los Angeles. “But the better team won.”
The loss is the Warriors’ first in a conference series under Kerr, and it signals the end of an era in which their dynastic run raised their local profile and established it at the global level. The thrill ride lasted nine years, seven in the playoffs, six in the NBA Finals, with four championships.
No matter who returns next season -- Stephen Curry is going nowhere, so need to worry -- this postseason served emphatic notice that the Warriors’ place in the NBA hierarchy is neither champion nor contender but, rather, a team fighting to exist above the border of mediocrity.
“It felt like we were swimming upstream from the beginning,” Kerr said. “I think we found ourselves down the stretch and in the first round of the playoffs. To be fair, I think this team probably, ultimately, maxed out.”
There is no argument from Draymond Green, nor should there be.
“This group definitely maxed out what we could do,” Green said. “It wasn’t a championship team. We didn’t win it. It sucks. But that’s our reality.”
Curry offered no counter to the reasonable belief that the Warriors reached their limit but took a more philosophical approach.
“We lost, so that’s the hard truth at the end of the journey,” he said. “It’s not anything you allow yourself ... no competitor believes that until it’s proven you’re not a championship team. That’s what getting beat in a playoff series means. Basketball is over for this year.
“Felt it in the fourth quarter with about seven minutes left.”
When guard Austin Reaves punctuated a 15-2 run with two free throws, giving the Lakers a 106-82 lead with 7:17 remaining, the Warriors didn’t quite capitulate, but they realized defeat was on the horizon.
They never led and, frankly, never looked as if they could make a serious run in Game 6.
Curry scored a game-high 32 points but had layups come up short. Klay Thompson was missing nearly everything. Jordan Poole finished with more fouls than field goals. Andrew Wiggins was courageous but ineffective. Green was a rumor of the player he was in Game 5.
In the end, there were Kevon Looney and Donte DiVincenzo, perhaps energized by pride, trying in vain to prop up the walls. Loon, alone in his great goodness, grabbing rebounds like apples off the tree. Donte, barely visible in the first five games, coming up with 16 points off the bench.
The Warriors were at their worst in Los Angeles, blown out in Game 3, botching Game 4 and being blown out once more in Game 6. They were 0-3 in LA, ending at 28 their streak of postseason series with at least one road win.
Golden State’s streak of 19 consecutive intraconference wins -- an NBA record since conferences were instituted in 1970 -- fell along with their hopes of repeating.
“Anytime you don’t win a championship, it’s a disappointment for us, a franchise that prides itself on trying to hang banners,” Green said. “They were the better team this series. You’ve got to give them their credit.”
The Lakers were better than a Golden State team that finished six games over .500. Gone is the dynasty that was, to be replaced by the dark gray uncertainty that hung over the regular season and into the playoffs.
“We were barely in the playoff picture for most of the year,” Kerr said. “So, to make that push to get there, to win an epic first-round series and to give the Lakers a fight in this series and have our chances, that puts us among the top eight teams in the league. That’s probably where we should be.
“This is not a championship team.”
Indeed. And not as close as it might have seemed in the best moments of the season.